New search algorithms for relevant prior art most excite the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s CIO right now.
USPTO created the machine-learningalgorithms to increase the speed at which patents are examined by importing relevant prior art — all information on its claim of originality — into pending applications sent to art units, said Jamie Holcombe.
Filtering data into haystacks allowing patent examiners to more easily find what they’re looking for — the needle — is the new paradigm for search algorithms, Holcombe said.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) offers multiple programs that help small businesses and inventors with acquiring intellectual property protections, which can help protect creative works or ideas. These programs, such as the Inventors Assistance Center, are aimed at assisting the public, especially small businesses and inventors, with intellectual property protections. Several stakeholders GAO interviewed said that USPTO programs have been helpful, but they were also not aware of some USPTO programs. Although these programs individually evaluate how they help small businesses and inventors, the agency does not collect and evaluate overall information on whether these programs are effectively reaching out to and meeting the needs of these groups. Under federal internal control standards, an agency should use quality information to achieve its objectives. Without an agency-wide approach to collect information to help evaluate the extent to which its programs serve small businesses and inventors, USPTO may not have the quality information needed to fully evaluate the effectiveness of its outreach and assistance for these groups and thus make improvements where necessary.
Although the Small Business Administration (SBA) coordinates with USPTO through targeted efforts to provide intellectual property training to small businesses, it has not fully implemented some statutory requirements that can further enhance this coordination. While SBA and the Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) coordinate with USPTO programs at the local level to train small businesses on intellectual property protection (see figure), this coordination is inconsistent. For example, two of the 12 SBDCs that GAO interviewed reported working primarily with USPTO to help small businesses protect their intellectual property, but the other 10 did not. The Small Business Innovation Protection Act of 2017 requires SBA and USPTO to coordinate and build on existing intellectual property training programs, and requires that SBA’s local partners, specifically the SBDCs, provide intellectual property training, in coordination with USPTO. SBA officials reported that they are in the process of implementing requirements of this act. Incorporating selected leading practices for collaboration, such as documenting the partnership agreement and clarifying roles and responsibilities, could help SBA and USPTO fully and consistently communicate their existing resources to their partners and programs, enabling them to refer these resources to small businesses and inventors.
Why GAO Did This Study
Small businesses employ about half of the U.S. private workforce and create approximately two-thirds of the nation’s jobs. For many small businesses, intellectual property aids in building market share and creating jobs. Among the federal agencies assisting small businesses with intellectual property are USPTO, which grants patents and registers trademarks, and SBA, which assists small businesses on a variety of business development issues, including intellectual property.
GAO was asked to review resources available to help small businesses and inventors protect intellectual property, and their effectiveness. This report examines, among other things, (1) the extent to which USPTO evaluates the effectiveness of its efforts to assist small businesses and (2) SBA’s coordination with USPTO to assist small businesses. GAO analyzed agency documents and interviewed officials who train and assist small businesses. GAO also interviewed stakeholders, including small businesses, and, among other things, reviewed federal internal control standards and selected leading practices for enhancing interagency collaboration.
What GAO Recommends
GAO is making four recommendations, including that USPTO develop an agency-wide approach to evaluate the effectiveness of its efforts to help small businesses and inventors, and that SBA document its partnership agreement with USPTO and clarify roles and responsibilities for coordinating with USPTO to provide training. Both agencies agreed with GAO’s recommendations.
A new material patented by a Youngstown State University professor and student could lead to a process to help remove the increasingly dangerous amounts of pharmaceuticals in the tap water coming into our homes.
Today, as part of Women’s History Month, the USPTO has officially launched the Expanding Innovation Hub (“the Hub”), an online platform available on the USPTO website that provides resources for inventors and practitioners to encourage greater participation in the patent system. The new platform is yet another step the USPTO has taken to broaden the innovation ecosphere, to inspire novel inventions, to accelerate growth, and to drive America’s global competitive edge. It builds on our SUCCESS Act report to Congress of 2019, as well as our Progress and Potential report on women inventors.
Abstract: A photovoltaic evaporation and distillation system for the recycling of wastewater to potable water is disclosed herein . The system is comprised of six components that work in conjunction to produce both a source of reusable water for
indoor appliances that produce greywater ( or irrigation use ) , and potable water .
Federal agency and laboratory (lab) officials identified challenges in licensing patents across the federal government, and agencies have taken some steps to address and report them. Patent licensing is a technology transfer activity that allows, for example, federal inventions to be legally transferred to the private sector for commercial use. Specifically, officials at the Departments of Defense (DOD) and Energy (DOE), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and National Institutes of Health (NIH), as well as external stakeholders, noted challenges in having researchers identify potentially patentable inventions. DOD, DOE, and NIH officials also cited having inadequate internal systems to keep track of inventions developed in the labs. In addition, several stakeholders stated that licensing patented inventions can be lengthy and bureaucratic, which may deter companies from licensing. The agencies reported taking steps to address these challenges, such as implementing model license agreements across labs to expedite the process.
Selected Challenges in Licensing Federal Inventions and Steps Taken to Address Them
The Department of Commerce has delegated to its National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to annually report agencies’ technology transfer activities, including patent licensing. Although NIST has reported some challenges, it has not fully reported the range of challenges identified by agency and lab officials and stakeholders. NIST officials stated that they were generally aware of the challenges but had not considered including them to a greater degree in their annual reports to Congress. By fully reporting the range of challenges in federal patent licensing, NIST has the opportunity to further ensure that Congress is more aware of challenges that limit agencies’ efforts and ways for potentially addressing those challenges.
Federal agencies and labs have limited information to guide officials when establishing the financial terms of patent licenses. For example, while federal labs can use comparable licenses to help establish financial terms, their access to information on comparable licenses from other labs varies, and such information is not formally shared among the agencies. Based on its established interagency role, NIST is best positioned to assist agencies in sharing information on comparable licenses, in accordance with leading practices for interagency collaboration. By doing so, NIST would provide federal agencies and labs with useful information that can help them better establish financial terms and successfully license inventions.
Why GAO Did This Study
The federal government spends approximately $137 billion annually on research and development—mostly at DOD, DOE, NASA, and NIH—to further agencies’ missions, including at federal labs. Multiple laws have directed agencies and labs to encourage commercial use of their inventions, in part by licensing patents, to private sector companies and others that aim to further develop and bring the inventions to market.
GAO was asked to review agency practices for managing inventions developed at federal labs, with a particular focus on patent licensing. This report examines (1) challenges in licensing patents and steps taken to address and report them and (2) information to guide establishing financial terms in patent licenses at DOD, DOE, NASA, and NIH. GAO reviewed relevant literature, laws, and agency documents, including patent licenses from 2014, to match the most recent NIST summary report when the licenses were requested, and GAO interviewed agency officials and knowledgeable stakeholders, including organizations that assist federal labs in licensing patents.
What GAO Recommends
GAO is making seven recommendations, including that Commerce instruct NIST to fully report the range of challenges in federal patent licensing in its annual reports to Congress and facilitate information sharing among agencies. Commerce, DOD, DOE, NASA, and NIH generally agreed with GAO’s recommendations and are taking steps to implement them.
A technology that could in theory catch 90% of carbon dioxide from coal-fired power stations has been patented by US government scientists.
Employing an enzyme-based membrane fabric 10 times thinner than a soap bubble, it could separate carbon dioxide from nitrogen or oxygen and speed up its dissolution in water by a factor of 10 million. And its triumphant designers say that, in laboratory trials, it does the job − at a cost-effective $40 a ton.
If you’re interested in checking out technologies developed by NASA over the years, you can now access thousands of expired patents using the space agency’s new searchable database.
According to Daniel Lockney, program executive of NASA’s Technology Transfer project, making their technologies accessible in the public domain could help inspire people to start a new age of entrepreneurship, which would hopefully place the United States back in the lead in terms of economic competitiveness and manufacturing highly advanced technologies.
Aside from launching the new patent database, NASA added 56 carefully selected patents to those already included in the public domain to make them available for commercial use without any restrictions.
The new database, known as the NASA Patent Portfolio, features technologies developed for 15 different areas including electronics, communications, optics, sensors, propulsion, automation and control, robotics, manufacturing, medicine and biotechnology, health, information technology and software, aeronautics and power generation and storage.